Kanchenjunga!

A Lakeland Round 2007: Day 2 – Tuesday 17 April

Let’s start by adding a 5th lesson to last night’s list: don’t expect a good night’s sleep in a tent.  I know the first night in a strange bed isn’t usually great, but you can multiply that by 10 when sleeping in a tent and on a very (too) thin mat.  I probably did sleep but it can’t have been much – none of it was helped by people talking until 1am; ducks, geese and what sounded like peacocks having a party; cuckoos and a choir of small twittering little bastards at 5:30.

It’s nice now though (07:40) sat watching the sun over Coniston Water whilst waiting for the kettle to boil.

Whilst I lay there enduring the sounds of the campsite, I fell into a reverie (posh word of the day) and reflected on past trips to the Lakes.  The trips of the last couple of years have always had a bit of an emotional edge – either because of the few days respite from work stress, or the sheer apprehension and weariness from the 3 Peaks.  This is the first time it’s been a calm experience (nocturnal wildlife excepted) and long may it continue.

I’ve also not quite made my mind up what sort of a walker I am – a hillwalker or a long distance walker, having experimented with both.  I yearn for the mountains when away, but as soon as I set foot on them am reminded how physically unsuited I seem to be.  But nothing quite matches the first glimpse of the mountains.  I’m putting a lot of faith in this challenge to build some fitness and mental toughness for this sort of walking – let’s hope I’ve not bitten off more than I can chew.  Of course, it’s also possible that 3 months crammed with walking is going to get the hills out of my system and that will be an end of it.

But I’ve still got today’s walk to do, and today I’m climbing Kanchenjunga!  Well the hill, the Swallows and Amazons called that anyway.

Kanchenjunga!
Kanchenjunga!

I set off in reasonable time on the long walk to the end of the ridge of fells.   I faffed around for ages just getting to the Walna Scar Road and by 11am it’s not good as I’m only just starting to head upwards.  This doesn’t bode well for the day, which has been planned to be quite big.

After slogging upwards for 2 hours, at 1pm I call a lunch stop at the cairn on Brown Pike.  When I arrived at the Walna Scar pass I briefly detoured left to the summit of Walna Scar itself which only took 10 minutes, but my slow trudge on the rest of the ascent was practically reverse. I’m nowhere near where I need to be to get everything done today.

Brown Pike and Dow Crag from Walna Scar
Brown Pike and Dow Crag from Walna Scar

It’s cool and breezy on Brown Pike and I hunker down below the cairn and fill my face.  I feel better afterwards and make better progress up onto Dow Crag.  But approaching mid afternoon, I’ve done 1 of 6 planned summits and it’s clear I’m not going to make it.

Dow Crag
Dow Crag
Blind Tarn from Dow Crag
Blind Tarn from Dow Crag

This doesn’t seem to help with motivation and I head down to Goat’s House.  At the bottom I look up and am put off by the climb onto the Old Man, and without breaking my stride I simply carry on taking a slanting line across the side of Brim Fell heading away from the Old Man.  As I climb, there’s a vague intention to cross over the top of Brim Fell to bag the Old Man, but my heart’s not in it.  I no longer care and just want the day finished as soon as possible.

Swirl How
Swirl How

At this point, as I realise afterwards, I should have simply headed back down to Coniston, but no.  I carried on up onto Swirl How, arriving at 4pm.  With my original plan of sleeping in Langdale still lodged in my head, 10 minutes later I’m on Great Carrs, and that’s it.  I look across at Pike O’Blisco and realise the climb I have at the end of the day even just to take the lowest level route over into Langdale.

Back to the Old Man (L) and Dow Crag (R)
Back to the Old Man (L) and Dow Crag (R)

I head downhill and in my state of tiredness and dejection the going is too hard and too steep.  It’s a struggle even to let gravity do its work.  But eventually I arrive on the Wrynose Pass road and strike out eastwards along the road.  A symptom of my tiredness is that I’m still not decided whether to try for Langdale or simply to give up and get a B&B for the night.

Arriving at the Three Shires, I sit on the bench outside and that’s it.  A B&B it is.  I call for a taxi to Ambleside and when I arrive I try a row of establishments in Church Street.  After a no answer, I fall on my feet at the next one and although I have to pay handsomely for a double room, it’s superb – DVDs to watch, my own fridge, a good tea tray and a really good ensuite.

I ache all over – feet, shoulders, chest.  It’s clear that my original plan is shot to pieces.  There’s no way I can do many peaks carrying all this stuff, so I’ll either have to be more modest in my target, or change my strategy so that I can walk more days with less kit.

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